Take care of your heart and have a hearty laugh: Dr Arun Basil Mathew
Heart-related ailments and deaths are on the rise, especially among the youth and those recovering from Covid. Dr Arun Basil Mathew talked to Mathrubhumi.com about the importance of heart health and why timely measures are important.
How can we know if we belong to the high-risk group or not?
A self clinical examination can reveal and hint towards a potential risky cardiovascular milieu. A simple BMI check can stratify the obesity index and those who are in the obese and morbid obese subset should be screened thoroughly for their cardiovascular health. A simple half an hour brisk walk or jogging or moderate physical activity, if resulting in chest discomfort, pain, weakness or breathlessness will definitely require further attention at the earliest. Baseline blood investigations including fasting lipid profile as well as blood sugar values, HbA1c, thyroid profile will give more clues. But the main culprit in cardiovascular risk is obviously the genetics and hereditary parameters. If your first degree relatives have a history of heart diseases and other comorbidities you should get your screening done at a very early stage rather than waiting for symptoms to occur.
What changes in one's lifestyle can reduce the risk of heart diseases?
One should be more heart conscious rather than body or figure conscious. Recent trend among youngsters is to build a very muscular body in a short time which inadvertently results in imbibing unhealthy practices like anabolic steroid abuse and stimulant overuse. Rave party culture, smoking and alcoholism take a heavy toll on their heart's health. We can see many of our youngsters around, with great physiques but fragile hearts. Moderate intensity exercises in the form of aerobics and cardio workouts should be included in our daily schedule early. Don't wait till your 40s to start exercising. Yoga practices and meditation can be an add on to boost our fitness which brings a balance in physical as well as mental health.
What are the chances of a person with a perfectly acceptable lifestyle getting heart attacks? What can be done in such cases?
'Perfectly acceptable lifestyle ' is a social taboo and it is very subjective, also culturally and ethnically different. Nevertheless, incorporating a clean and balanced diet with lots of green, fibres and fish along with complete abstinence from party drugs, cigarettes, stimulants and anabolic steroids along with daily moderate-intensity physical exercises, meditation and adequate sleep can be considered as an acceptable lifestyle on a broader perspective. In that setting as I said early, family history and genetics play a significant role and early screening in that subset is vital for picking up and diagnosing heart diseases and preventing cardiovascular mortalities and morbidities later on.
The post-heart attack scenario is difficult and often a less discussed matter. Early detection of a heart attack and prompt addressal and treatment from a good centre within the window period is very vital with regard to long term morbidity, function and quality of life. I would urge all of our readers to familiarize themselves with the various scenarios of cardiac emergencies from social media platforms and youtube videos, as plenty of them are available online these days. Once you encounter a real-life situation in your family or around, kindly attend to the situation promptly and provide necessary first aid in the form of basic life support (knowledge of airway, circulation, cardiopulmonary resuscitation etc comes in handy during lots of real-life emergencies) and prioritize in getting proper hospital care and expert attention within the window period.
Post covid scenarios are quite often associated with heart ailments. How can people recovering from Covid ensure good health of their hearts?
Covid-19 pandemic has already taken a heavy toll on mankind and we are still facing the repercussions with very limited knowledge of its impact on the pathophysiology, especially the heart. Covid brings on a pro-inflammatory state in the body along with a procoagulant effect and fibrotic changes which can prove detrimental to many organs in our body including the heart and lung. The risk of stroke, heart attacks and clotting abnormalities are quite rampant in covid patients as well as in the post covid subset. Whatever may be the case scenario, it is always important to stick to the basics in the form of healthy and clean food habits, good hydration, avoid stressing and exerting your body too much, good sleep, and a sound mental status which can bring in a state of balance and equilibrium during the recovery phase and a perfect hormonal and metabolic milieu for fast-tracking. Self-awareness, mindfulness and spending time to explore and understand your surroundings, and mother nature will answer most of your queries and concerns and make your mind peaceful amidst a global pandemic. Anxiety and mental issues are the next major global concern that the human race has to tackle in a very collective and scientific manner.
Are Covid patients prone to a higher risk of heart-related diseases post-recovery?
The post-Covid recovery phase is a very sensitive period and according to the current expert consensus, extreme physical activities are not advisable for a minimum of 4 to 6 months. Always make sure you start your activities and exercises in a very systematic, graded and progressive manner. Start with light exercises, walking, simple aerobics, meditation and breathing exercises. Over a period of time, you can increase the intensity of your workout once your body is acclimatised. The elderly population should get their baseline blood investigations and cardiac screening done post recovery and always get an expert opinion and hospital care if you are facing any issues post covid and avoid self-treating the complication without much idea.
Dr Arun Basil Mathew is a Heart Specialist at Medanta Hospital and was the Contingent Specialist Doctor & Addl CLO, Tokyo 2020 Olympics